Medical errors fell in last decade

Initiatives to reduce medical errors, the nation's third-leading cause of death, have made progress, according to research published in the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ) Chartbook on Patient Safety.

Researchers analyzed medical malpractice payment reports, one of the primary mechanisms for identifying errors, and found they dropped 28 percent between 2004 and 2014. Furthermore, they noted a year-over-year downward trend every year but 2013 when it ticked up slightly. The majority of these payments were for treatment, diagnostic and surgical errors, which combined represented about 80 percent of reports over the 10-year period. In the past decade, the medical malpractice payment reports have fallen at a slightly faster pace than outpatient reports every year but 2013.

The AHRQ's analysis also found care quality in general improved over the same period. The report found an improvement of approximately 60 percent of quality measures, 80 percent of person-centered care measures and 60 percent of measures for effective treatment, patient safety and healthy living.

Care disparities also improved in several categories, including the gap between black and white patients for postoperative respiratory failure and the gap between low- and high-income pediatric patients for admissions with accidental puncture or laceration during the procedure. The gap between Hispanic and non-Hispanic white patients for adult postoperative catheter-associated urinary tract infections vanished entirely.

To learn more:
- read the report (.pdf)